The Joy of the Benedict Option
Forgive me for posting so much about the Ben Op. I’m really excited about today’s (Sat Oct 10) meeting at Georgetown, not least because at long last I’ll meet Leah Libresco, the Catholic convert and devotee of the Dominican House of Studies, who thrills me with posts like this. Excerpt:
When Rod Dreher profiled model Benedict Optioners, he wasn’t focused on the monks in the monastery, but the people who had deliberately settled in the shadow of the monastery, so that they could lean on the brothers while engaging with the world. I find myself living in a similar situation as a Washington D.C. resident, living within the orbit of the Dominican House of Studies — only a short metro ride away from my home and my office.
My parish hosts two Dominican brothers, who assist at Mass and run an Adult Sunday School, where they give excellent weekly talks on matters of faith. They’re so integrated in to the parish that, when our RCIA director was choosing sponsors for my class of converts, she had a Dominican step in to be my godfather. Once a month, I go to the “Christopolis” lecture, where a Dominican father introduces a speaker (not infrequently a Dominican) to speak on the underpinnings of our religion and how to live them out. When I had a free afternoon, I stopped by the House of Studies to join the friars and their guests for Evening Prayer (and used to do it a lot more often, when I had a job with “summer hours”). A Dominican friar has stopped by the monthly debates I host, chatted with my friends, and helped us consider the question “R: Send Your Kids to Public School” (which touched on Benedict Option themes). And, just a couple months ago, I saw a lot of my friends when we all gathered at the priory for theDominicans’ Vigil of All Saints.
Living supported by the Dominicans does more for me than cultivating piety on my own or even being involved in my church. The brothers (and the sisters studying at their school) offer infusions both of knowledge and of joy for us. They open up the faith so we can study in in greater detail, not just in order to amass more knowledge, but so that we can delight in beauty. They also clear out space for us to experience this delight. And they serve as a Schelling Point where we can find people we can share philia bonds with (“You, too? I thought I was the only one!”). I even went so far as to recommend to one Catholic friend (currently in law school) that he might want to prioritize finding a summer job in DC, so he could have the experience of being in such a rich and lively Catholic community, so he could decide if he wanted to prioritize living here, or someplace like it, when he did longer-term career planning.
Man oh man, I think about how different my life would have been in DC, back in the early 1990s, if I had had what Leah and those like her have with the Dominicans. Such joy, in community and orthodoxy.
(If you’re reading this on Saturday morning, please come see us and meet Leah at Gaston Hall @ Georgetown, 37th and O, NW, Washington. Event starts at 10 am — and you’ll get to hear and meet Ken Myers, which, I’m telling you, will change you life.)